I spent (Spent: The wing position of many aquatic insects when they fall on the water after mating. The wings of both sides lay flat on the water. The word may be used to describe insects with their wings in that position, as well as the position itself.)
one morning back near town, glassing some forgettable BLM hills and seeing nothing. That was really just an excuse to feel productive while setting up another midday on restaurant wifi figuring out where to go next. The afternoon drive to my new spot passed some classic scenery:
I had time in the evening to climb a few hundred feet up a ridge and glass the upper end of a valley that wasn't otherwise viewable from the road. I continued to be surprised by the number of moose in the high, dry sagebrush country, and I spotted a few does. Just before dark I spotted a yearling buck a mile away near the head of the valley, but there wasn't enough light left to pursue it.
The next morning, I walked in a different way to relocate the small buck from a better stalking position, but it was gone. That valley was empty.
However, I had a view through a saddle to some ridges another mile away from the road, and I spotted some deer in a clearing over there around 9 am. There was a group of does with the largest mule deer buck I've seen yet while hunting, although that's not saying much. They were in good-looking habitat, moving among a patchwork of timber and sagebrush clearings with craggy rocks above.
I closed the distance by half a mile and stopped to glass again, making sure I still had the group of deer. They hadn't moved much. The next part of the stalk would be trickier, because a small peak in the ridge would force me to make a partially exposed approach or circle around it the long way. I chose the long way.
When I arrived where the deer had been, they were gone. I could find a few stray tracks, but it wasn't easy ground for tracking and I could't figure out where the group went overall.
I hiked back to within a mile of the road and set up for the evening to glass some valleys I hadn't overlooked in the morning. There were a few does and a really nice bull elk that seemed to be nursing a wound.
Without a clear plan for where to glass on the morning after this 14-hour day running around on the mountain, I just found a good spot to park the car and slept until some outrageously late hour like 8:00 am. Sitting in the driver's seat with the heater running and eating a morning snack, I threw up my binoculars just for kicks and somehow there were deer: two does and a yearling buck. They weren't much more than 400 yards away, disappearing over the top of the ridge.
Being firmly in "any legal buck to fill the freezer" mode by now, I readied my gear and chased up the mountain after them, soon reaching the saddle where they'd vanished. They weren't visible, but I did spot another deer farther up the next valley (also at around 400 yards). In order to continue around the ridgetop and look for the deer I was after, I would have to move in a way that risked spooking this one. I couldn't see antlers through my binoculars, so I went ahead. It spooked. It ran into the sun, revealing tiny fork-horned antlers.
Kicking myself for blowing that opportunity, I continued around the ridgetop looking for other opportunities to blow. Soon I found one: the deer I had pursued in the first place were just about to round the next ridge over, about 200 yards from me. I crept into a shooting position with my bipod behind what little cover was available (just some short sagebrush), and the deer spotted me. They weren't fully spooked, just concerned. But the buck never gave me a clean shot before they all took a few steps and disappeared from view.
I hurried across ridges again to the spot I expected them to be going, and again I found them from about 500 yards away, moving in my direction toward the bottom of a brushy draw. I was in a great position to get behind some tall evergreens and close the distance, which I did. The timber was fairly open in the understory, allowing me to sneak into range of where the deer should be under the cover of darkness, but with a bit of a view.
When I reached the ideal viewpoint, I glassed and glassed. Near and far. I had a great view into a small grove of aspens that seemed like the ideal destination for those deer, and I picked it apart with my eyes. Nothing. I thought they must have slipped away down the valley, so I should hurry to catch up with them. Of course, the moment I began to hurry, they busted out of those aspens just 100 yards away, completely shocked by my bold move. That really was the end of the hunt for them. At their pace, they would be half-way to Wyoming by the time I caught up with the last spot I saw them.
I was perfectly concealed in that close patch of evergreen trees on the right. The deer were perfectly concealed in nearest portion of the aspens on the left, until I stupidly spooked them.
At least I found some cool ants living in giant mounds on the ground.